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value of buttons exported last year amounted to $272,600 against $169,900 in 1906 and $74,900 in 1905.

Pearl buttons imported.

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WASHINGTON, D. C., January 30, 1913. Hon. OSCAR W. UNDERWOOD,

Chairman Ways and Means Committee: We address you in the interest of the pearl button manufacturers, who make pearl buttons from shells found in the rivers and lakes of the Central West and Southern States.

Previous to 1890, there were no staple pearl buttons made in America, as the low rate of duty, which was 25 per cent ad valorem, did not allow us to compete with imported buttons.

The McKinley tariff placed a specific duty on pearl buttons, without which it would have been impossible to successfully manufacture pearl buttons in America. The present tariff shows a reduction of 40 per cent on both specific and ad valorem rates, compared with the McKinley tariff.

Under the present rate of 14 cents per line specific and 15 per cent ad valorem, the industry has made great progress, employing thousands of people, and utilizing a product, hardly known to exist previous to 1890.

The button factories now consume between 50,000 and 60,000 tons of fresh-water shells per year, giving employment to shell diggers, who gather the shells from the river beds, to transportation companies, who haul the shells to the factories, and thousands of employees in the button factories, all of whom earn good wages, in localities where otherwise it would be difficult to obtain steady remunerative employment.

By the use of improved machinery, better methods of manufacturing, and keen competition the price of these buttons has been gradually reduced until they are now selling at less than one-half the former price, while wages have advanced 40 per cent, and raw material which was of no value, to per ton for the better grades.

It is absolutely necessary that a specific duty be maintained, as even a high ad valorem rate would allow the importation of cheap grades from Europe and Japan, which would seriously interfere with our industry,

This Japanese competition is a menace, which if allowed to develop through a change in tariff, will make it impossible to pay the present high rate of wages.

A peculiar condition of the pearl button industry is that the entire shell composing the raw material must be worked up at the first operation; therefore, if we attempt to fill an order for first-quality goods, we must manufacture, or partly manufacture, nearly twice the quantity of low grades, which are slow of sale.


The Japanese and Austrians with cheap grades of shells, could put on the market in this country finished buttons, sewed on cards, for a little more than we pay for the first operation.

Therefore if specific duty is removed, the Japanese and Austrian goods would take the place of our cheap buttons, and we could not operate against this competition.

The pearl button industry in America has several million of dollars invested in plants and special machinery-worthless for anything but manufacturing pearl buttons--and have up-to-date appliances and sanitary conditions.

The Japanese or Austrians, being skilled hand workmen, can start manufacturing pearl buttons with the investment of a few dollars, and can build himself a simple lathe, worked by foot power, and with such a machine can make the finest quality of goods with minimum waste.

The wage scale in some of our factories is higher than that paid in any other industry where equal skill is employed.

We call your attention to the fact that the Wilson tariff allowed us a specific rate on pearl buttons.

In conclusion, we respectfully request, on behalf of the fresh-water-pearl button manufacturers, that the present compound rate of duty be maintained.

HARVEY CHALMERS & Son, Amsterdam, N. Y.,

Muscatine, Iowa, By D. A. Willis, Secretary. (Representing fresh-water-pearl button manufacturers.)


A great industry has been developed by utilizing a former worthless material, namely, fresh-water shells.

Employment given to thousands of people.
Wages exceed those paid in any other industry requiring equal skill.
Special machinery installed at high cost, worthless for any other

purpose. Impossible to produce first-grade buttons without producing many inferior grades, glow of sale.

The life of this industry depends absolutely on a specific rate of duty, and if it is removed the industry will be destroyed.



Rochester, N. Y., January 23, 1918. Hon. HENRY G. DANFORTH,

House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. Dear Sir: We have your favor of the 20th and are preparing a statement for the Ways and Means Committee as suggested.

As we mentioned in our previous letter, an association will present our views in regard to the pearl button question, but we trust that if you can bring any influence to bear on this you will do so. Our line and the most important line of pearl buttons is the small button such as is used on men's soft shirts. These are fairly well protected now by a combination specific and ad valorem duty. However, we take the liberty of citing an instance which will show what is likely to happen to a greater extent should the tariff be lowered. The facts are as follows: “About seven or eight years ago, we began making pearl buttons from a shell known as trocha shell, which at that time was worked only in Europe. By means of improved methods we found that we were fairly well able to compete with the European manufacturers and worked up quite a business on this line. About three years ago the Japanese began to manufacture these goods and gradually entered this market, so that we were compelled to quit this end of the business entirely, in spite of the fact that the duty the Japanese were forced to pay on this article amounted to fully 100 per cent. They are to day selling a certain size of this button in Japan for approximately 23 cents per gross in our money, whereas when we were making these goods we actually paid from 18 to 21 cents per gross for only the first operation of the dozen or more opera


tions required to complete the button, to say nothing of the cost of the material, cards, boxes, etc.

If you can bring these facts to the attention of any members who may be interested, we trust you will do so, as to-day in our line it is the Japanese that is to be feared more than the German or Austrian, Yours, very truly,



POUGHKEEPSIE, N. Y., February 13, 1913. Hon. Oscar W. UNDERWOOD,

Chairman Ways and Means Committee, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: We respectfully request the retention of the present tariff on pearl buttons by your honorable committee, in order that the invested capital be justly protected, as well as the present interests of those employed be maintained.

To more fully familiarize your honorable board with the reasons for the maintenance of the existing tariff, which is 14 cents a line specific and 15 per cent ad valorem, we cite the following facts:

Prior to 1890 the manufacture of staple pearl buttons was not attempted, owing to the lack of a protective duty and the further knowledge that, owing to the importation of foreign goods, it would be impossible to compete in our home markets.

Many attempts were made by our organization, then an unknown factor, but later styled as the Boepple Button Co., to manufacture pearl buttons from the mussel shells gathered in the rivers of this country, but in each instance the attempt to market them at merely a slight profit met with failure, owing to the low price of the imported buttons.

Últimately, through the adoption of the McKinley tariff, placing a specific duty on pearl buttons, the domestic product was permitted an opportunity for sale in the home market, and its manufacture has made constant advance, so that at this time we find that employment is given to 11,800 men and 4,400 women in its manufacture and distribution from the period of the gathered shell to the finished product.

In addition thereto it is very conservatively estimated that 4,800 men are employed in the gathering of the shell five months annually, which is during the open river season, and many more in its handling, etc.

The scope of its manufacture has so largely increased as to cover the States of Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, and other States.

The invested capital in building and equipment aggregates $3,000,000.

The profit paid upon this capital for the past five years will not exceed 7 per cent, unfortunately this condition being due to the extreme competition existing in the industry.

Sufficient sti have been made in improved machinery to make the working conditions of the employees very favorable, and the wages paid for unskilled labor admittedly very good, the average for men running about

$14.20 per week and female labor at $7.80 weekly.

As a comparison of wages in foreign countries, where pearl buttons are made, such as England, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Japan, we cíte England, where the best wages are paid, as affecting a given task in this country:

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Average weekly working hours..
Average weekly earnings:

Blank cutters.


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Bookkeepers. Office (clerical help). Polishers.


7.50 16.00

6.00 100 7.00

111 cents per gr.

2 One-ball cent per gl.


It is apparent from the above that the material difference between the countries is sufficiently great to cause the necessity of vast retrenchment in our business policy; also the evident necessity for a lower wage than our employees now command, etc., in order to maintain our present position in the country's market should any reductions in tariff be made.

It will undoubtedly be interesting to your committee to know that despite the many advances in wages, and other material advances in recent years, the finished pearl button sells at prices 40 per cent less than were commanded 10 years ago, and 20 per cent less than the prevailing prices in 1907, all being due to the many strides in improved machinery, methods of operation, etc.

Thanking you for your indulgence to this brief, and begging your kindest consideration, we are, respectfully,

A. S. GARLAND, Secretary.


New YORK, February 5, 1915. E. W. TOWNSEND, Esq., 246 Upper Mountain Avenue,

Upper Montclair, N. J. Dear Sir: As a resident of upper Montclair, I am taking the liberty of asking you to interest yourself on behalf of the pearl-button manufacturers in this country in the pending tariff legislation.

It would give me great pleasure to have the opportunity of talking to you, if only for a few minutes, on this subject, as I feel that so much more could be accomplished in a short conversation than can be done in writing. There are some very important features, however, which I should particularly like to call your attention to in regard to the possible reduction of tariff on pearl buttons.

Japan is exporting $1,000,000 worth of buttons a year, which now go to Europe, One of the countries in Europe where pearl buttons are largely manufactured is France. France, in self-defense, has put a tariff on pearl buttons of about 40 per cent to 50 per cent. I think you will readily see that if it is necessary for an European nation to protect itself so heavily against Japanese labor that the United States surely needs infinitely more.

These goods are not of a character that permits of a very large amount of work being done by mechanical process. A very large percentage of the cost of the finished article is labor, and the prices at present ruling in this country do not allow of more than about $16 a week for the highest-class labor employed in the work.

There are certain kinds of pearl buttons even now being imported into this country from Japan on which the shell cost is emaller than average and the labor cost greater than average. With a very slight reduction in the tariff it will give opportunity for a very wide range of buttons to come into this market and deprive thousands of workingmen of the opportunity to earn a living:

I have personally been through a number of factories in Japan and am quite familiar with the conditions that prevail there. We have not only to take into consideration the low wages for which a man will work in Japan, but the fact that women will work for almost nothing, and even children are employed also and under such circumstances as could not possibly be tolerated in an American city.

This is a comparatively small industry, but it employs quite a few thousand people who are working hard to make a very modest living, and it is my honest opinion that this industry can not stand any reduction in tariff without throwing a very large number of these people entirely out of work. Yours, respectfully,




Tariff on pearl buttons.

New York, N. Y., January 23, 1913. To the Honorable Committee of Ways and Means, House of Representatives:

GENTELMEN: The following respectfully presented on behalf of members of the Pearl Button Workers Union No. 14077, New York City and vicinity, American Federation of Labor, employed exclusively in the finishing of pearl buttons, and who repro


sent about 3,000 skilled workmen engaged in this branch of the pearl-button industry in New York city and vicinity:

There may be submitted to the Ways and Means Committee memorials for reducing duty on manufactured pearl buttons on the plea that pearl buttons are a luxury whereas they are a necessity. The wages paid to employees in this industry in this country average about $9 a week at 10 hours labor.

To reduce duty on pearl buttons would take away whatever protection we have at the present time and ruin the pearl-button industry in this country.

We therefore, in the interest and for the protection of workmen engaged in this industry, respectfully petition your honorable committee that the present import duty on pearl buttons be not removed. Respectfully yours,

HENRY Kurz, President.
Nicodemus GROLICH, Secretary.


Arlington, N. J., January 7, 1912. Hon. EUGENE KINKEAD,

House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR Sır: In considering the new tariff bill which the Ways and Means Committee will, no doubt, offer, we would like to call your attention to the pearl-button industry in this country.

The tariff on this article at present, while not protecting us on all kinds and sizes, yet it is about sufficient for the industry to exist. There are about 125 manufacturers, employing from 6 to 100 people, giving employment to perhaps seven or eight thousand people. The profits are not large, nor have any of the manufacturers accumulated a fortune.

We do not ask for any additional duty, but beg your interest in having the present
tariff maintained.
Appreciating your kind consideration in the matter, we remain,
Yours, very truly,

J. R. O'CONNOR, Secretary.



The witness was duly sworn by the chairman.
Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen

The CHAIRMAN. Will you tell me what paragraph you are speaking on?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Four hundred and twenty-seven and four hundred and forty-eight.

The CHAIRMAN. All right. Proceed.

Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Besides representing my own firm, B. Blumenthal & Co., New York, I represent the following importers: Bailey, Green & Elger; Dieckerhof, Raffloer & Co.; Strauss Bros. & Co., all of New York. We four importers probably import more than half of the total quantity of buttons imported in the United States.

Mr. Harrison. Are you speaking of all kinds of buttons, Mr. Blumenthal ?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL. I am talking of all kinds of buttons; yes, sir.

The rates of duty, excluding pearl buttons, are higher under the present tariff than they have been under any previous tariff. The importations of buttons have dwindled down to less than a million dollars on an average for the past years. The export of buttons for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1912, has been $720,000.

Mr. Harrison. What kind of buttons were those exported ?

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